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The air in Houston is just plain HOT in the summer.  Temperatures soar into the high 90’s and stay there.  By the middle of the morning the nasty partner of Southern heat joins in the unpleasantries.  High humidity.

From practical terms we refer to such days as two shirt days.  I carry an extra shirt in my truck or make sure that one is handy in my office, neatly hanging behind the door.  On especially sweaty days I will head to the club, swim a half of mile and then take a long cool shower.

Time and appointments are not always friendly to a human seeking relief from the relentless heat.  There are moments when the air conditioning of my office, my truck or my home is like a refuge where island hopping is the standard fare for the day.  The temptation to complain is high but never recommended.

Instead, we Texans learn to put on a happy face and say something good.  “The humidity is good for your skin,” we laugh.  No one really believes this words but it certainly brings about a moment of laughter that brings just a moment, ever so brief from the brutal weather outside.

Duty called.  I needed to get to other side of our building.  If I had wanted to I could have keyed the entrance passed through several doors on my way to the other end of our campus.  Instead, I braved the idea of walking through our outside atrium.  It meant stepping into the outdoor weather, albeit briefly.

Steeling my soul, I opened the door and walked briskly through the garden.  Surprisingly, the temperature and humidity did not grip my breath away.  In fact the weather, while warm, was quite pleasant.

My steps slowed to a casual stroll.  Why wasn’t the torturous Houston summer weather strangling me?  I stopped and looked up.

A canopy green took the place of a human-made ceiling.  Trees nearly blocked out the sun.  Well-watered flora moderated the small oasis.  Here I smiled at the summer and thought, “A true respite is built into this building.”

I am going to like it here in our new campus.  This unexpected feature was value-added to our bustling campus of students digging into their graduate studies.  Stumbling into and onto this refreshing discovery made for a memorable day.

Do you have a place of relief from the summer heat?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_4213Getting a chance to slip out of Texas during July is a respite from the searing heat and sticky humidity.  Taking a week to see family made sense.  Yet, it did not take long for the soul to be missing the tug from the Lone Star state.

Texas has a pride that grows on you.  I was not born in Texas but I got here as fast as I could.  That is a standard line for all of us transplants.

It usually gets a knowing laugh from native Texans.  This phrase also brings a warm welcome from the locals.  Soon the mystique grows on everyone who emigrates here.

It is not usually the scenery in Houston that conjures up  the spirit.  Houston is flat with no landscape sensations worth mentioning.

Natural beauty takes place in June when the wildflowers burst into bloom.  Blue skies and puffy cumulus clouds add to the flavor of the state.  Green grasses set off the blues, reds and yellow flowers.

Another natural wonder that we see often are the cloud formations.  Since the land is so flat we watch the spectacular thunderclouds roll in and see jagged flashes of lightning across the skies.  Jacob’s ladders form in the clouds as the sun fights to send its rays on to the earth.

People are a strength in Texas.  The people here have a kindness and hospitality about them that is refreshing.  Texans are likable and they like others in return.  God seems to have added a larger dose of cheer in the average Texan.

While I enjoy a variety of cuisine, Texas BBQ is special.  When the smoker is pumping out the white billows of hickory mixed with the aroma of pork ribs, beef brisket, chicken halves or sausage links the mouth waters up cheeks full of saliva that only knows eating as a solution.  This is the Texas spirit.

While away in Oregon, I saw an opportunity to take my family to some BBQ.  An eatery was recommended.  They served BBQ beef ribs.  I did not have to think about that choice; it was off my lips as soon as the waiter greeted us.

The aromas of the grill wafted through the restaurant.  I was looking forward to my treat.  The plate was mounded with ribs and the sides were just like home.

I sank my teeth into the fare.  At first I was happy.  Then, I knew that I was just encouraging my own spirit.  I missed Texas and BBQ was one of the reason I did.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_1688There is an oak tree in parking lot of the office where I work.  It was one of the first things that captured my attention when I moved to Houston.  My move was in the middle of the summer.

Houston is famous for unforgettable summers.  Temperatures soar and the human body is baked from sun up to sun down.  The bright sun causes everything to sizzle, dry up and disappear.

Add to that the rising humidity and you have a perfect scenario for enjoying the inner comfort of air conditioning.  Businesses thrive on attracted overheated customers to flee into their stores for a respite from the outdoor blistering heat and humidity.  There is a reason that Houston is often touted as the most air conditioned city in the world.

No matter how much the air conditioning is keeping the house cool, vehicles chilled perfectly, the office pleasant or the shops welcoming, there is the reality that you have to leave any one of these temporary locations and step outside in order to make it to your next destination.  Most often it is going from your vehicle to some indoor destination.

That brings me back to that massive oak tree in our office lot.  When I first drove to work, it was hot outside.  The July temperatures were keeping their world-wide reputation intact.

This might oak cast a broad shadow over our lot.  There was one space left for me to claim.  It was an easy decision.

No, my truck was not cool at the end of the day but it was a lot better off than sitting under the blazing solar beating all day.  I don’t talk to trees or plants for that matter.  However, I have often looked up at that towering tree and was grateful that it is there.

When the Texas heat fades into memory and the Autumn begins a new phenomenon occurs.  The Oak tree begins to drop its acorns.  The squirrels love it.

What the rodents savor, however, brings laughter to us humans.  Those acorns are tiny bombs dropped from heights that are by no means dangerous but they are humorous.  When they smack against the metal body of my truck they sound like a firecracker being set off.

There are ten months of the year where this tree just grows.  It grows slowly waiting to be deeply appreciated when it casts if relief over our parking lot, a place for our vehicles to gather and fend off the brutal heat.  “Thanks, Big Oak.”

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

On a hot day there are always  options to fight the heat.  Creativity is only limited by desire.  A hot Texas day gives any human being a lot of desire to do something to survive the heat.

It is a human release valve too.  People feel better when they can let off a little steam with some kind of complaint.  The weather takes the brunt of a lot of human ire. 

When I lived in Oregon people always made comments about the rain.  The sun was rare, hidden by rain clouds.  They would joke  that no one in Oregon ever dies, they just rust away. 

Then, when we lived in Scotland, the conversation always took a swipe at the “drecht days”.  That’s the local slang for days that were cold and damp due to the blowing winds off the North Sea.  So, weather complaints are international to be sure.

Life in Michigan was no different.  There it was the winter that won the conversation marathon.  When snow fell in late November and never thawed until the next April, that was a long frigid spell.

But, while everyone every where seems to complain about the weather, everyone also stays put.  Here in Texas it is similar.  Locals get used to the humid heat and just cope.

Some times Houstonians head to the theater.  I’m speaking about the movie theater.  For hours air conditioning with a good show on the silver screen make us forget.

But, for all of us there is another southern favorite.  It has to be served at the correct temperature, however.  Something room temperature is totally unacceptable. 

At the local grocers there’s always a large bin full of these special treats.  Placement of this item doesn’t even make it into the produce section where it belongs.  Instead, they are placed right in the entry to greet shoppers.

People see these luscious green striped melons and there is an instant connection.  For $5 I throw one into our shopping cart.  It isn’t on our list.

When we arrive at home and download our groceries, this melon goes into the refrigerator.  There’s no exception to this procedure.  Serving watermelon that isn’t properly refrigerated misses the whole point of refreshment.

But, when it is chilled properly it is amazing.  Sliced creatively, it is God’s nectar for the uncomfortably hot.  It is a divine solution for the overly hot days of summer…slurp heaven’s chilled, sweet wonder.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography